Tony Abbott says he will not resign as leader, despite flagging opinion polls and the Queensland election bloodbath.
Speculation has been rife over the weekend that some Liberal Party MPs would mount a leadership challenge against Abbott in the aftermath of the Australia Day ‘knightmare’ debacle, the LNP’s spectacular drubbing in the Queensland vote and two new opinion polls that suggested the Coalition would suffer the same fate as their Sunshine State colleagues.
His speech on Monday at the National Press Club was viewed by many, including those within the Liberal Party ranks, as the last chance for the captain to right a sinking ship.
In his address, Mr Abbott announced that his widely criticised “captain’s call” paid parental leave policy would be put on the shelf in favour of new child care reforms.
On the knights and dames issue, he announced that decisions on awarding the honours would in future be made by the Order of Australia Council alone.
“I accept that the paid parental leave scheme was a captain’s call. I accept that the restoration of knighthoods was a captain’s call. They are the two captain’s calls which I have made but I have listened, I have learned and I have acted,” he said, seeking to put the two flashpoint issues behind him.
He also flagged an increased small business tax cut, a renewed focus on reform to foreign investment laws and reaffirmed his commitment to fighting terrorism.
In what could be viewed as a subtle nod to the speculated leadership aspirations of Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister also said that only under an “Abbott government” would reforms such as the repeal of the carbon tax have occurred and stay permanent.
When asked if he had considered resigning, Mr Abbott responded with a resolute “No”, arguing that Australians had voted him in as PM and wanted stable government after the Rudd-Gillard years, not the uncertainty of party infighting.
“It’s the people that hire and, frankly, it’s the people who should fire,” he said.
When questioned about the failure of the Campbell Newman led LNP government to win a second term in Queensland, Mr Abbott attributed the loss to failure of messaging.
“The fundamental lesson is that if you want to put in place difficult but necessary reform you’ve got to explain it, you’ve got to justify it and you’ve got to bring the people with you,” he said.
When asked if he would ever accept a knighthood himself, the prime minister joked that he would be unlikely to be offered one in the current political climate.
Insisting that he had learned from his mistakes, the prime minister promised the “most collegial government this country has ever seen in the weeks and months and years ahead”.
Following the address, Labor’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the prime minister of only acting in self-interest.
“He’s simply not up to the job of being prime minister of Australia,” Mr Shorten told reporters.
“This is a prime minister who’s only interested in hanging on to his own job.”
IMAGE: Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the National Press Club on February 2, 2015 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)